Reality Checking—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, February 2024
My entry into Ufology: Those early magical years
by: Brent Raynes
As a young teenager the UFO journey I took had a magical quality about it. Soon after the UFO wave of 1966 I developed an unshakable obsession with the subject. I remember when I was about 8 years old we were returning to our homestate of Maine from a winter spent in Florida, when my parents decided to stop off at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Our destination was the dinosaur exhibits. I was starstruck by the huge sizes that scientists had put together to represent how big these now extinct thunder lizards had once been. I was beginning to grasp just a small but magical bit of the enormity of our planet's complex and mysterious past, present, and potential future (but more on that shortly). I began collecting toy dinosaurs and learning their names and things about them, like who were the terrifying flesh-eating brutes of the prehistoric jungle (I soon identified the T Rex for that role) and who were the non-violent plant eaters (Brontosaurus became my favorite).
Over time my interest in the magical discoveries on the earth plane gradually shifted to include an eye on the mysteries above. Born and raised in Maine, I had a number of opportunities to observe the majestic and magical Northern Lights. My father a couple or so times drove us over 60 miles up to Andover, Maine, to the so-called Big Ear, which was this massive, approximately 250-ton steel and aluminum horn antenna, protected by this seven-story high white spherical dome. It communicated with the Telstar 1 satellite and listened to radio noises from space. My dad asked if they were picking up or listening for possible radio signals that might be from some distant civilization out there, and as I recall he was told during our visits that they were, but nothing like that had yet been detected that we could say was a sure thing. But just the idea that scientists were actually considering that such a possibility existed fueled my young imagination with further wonder and fascination. My father, a skilled carpenter, built me a playhouse in the backyard and I soon dubbed it something like Earth Station 1. I had a 30-power telescope and particularly enjoyed looking at the craters on the moon.
Science fiction soon fueled my imagination even further. I remember in particular comic books called Lost in Space, about the Space Family Robinson. However, when the TV version of Lost in Space came along in 1965, I was quite disappointed. In the original comic book version, they were in a huge space station with a domed astronomical compartment, places like green houses with plants, and cool shuttles to fly down to the surface of planets. The comic book version was so much cooler.
The Lost in Space comic books even inspired my young self to toy with making my own crude comic books about space journeying adventurers.
So, eventually when the 1966 UFO wave came along, I was naturally fired up, so to speak, and naturally began reading up some about UFOs and pondering whether or not, as some people felt, that possibly these UFOs might represent, at least in certain instances, extraterrestrial visitors coming to our planet. After reading a book by one Frank Edwards, entitled Flying Saucers - Serious Business, I decided to get my feet wet. I soon waded out into deep waters and quickly found myself in over my head, but it was too late. My young teenage self [embarking on this journey at age 14, the first month of 1967] was rapidly slipping further and further down the rabbit hole of ufology, or as Jim Moseley used to call it "ufoology."
My young self soon found my rather introverted but very curious wet behind the ears "ufologist" self hanging out with adults who were much older than me, but who had also been bitten by the UFO bug. I soon became acquainted with a truck mechanic from Augusta named Jim Carey (not to be confused with the famous comedian Jim Carrey, though my friend Jim had the gift for gab and certainly had his comical moments). He and his wife Linda had driven down to Exeter, New Hampshire, and visited with folks down there who had been written up in John Fuller's book Incident at Exeter. This was just prior to our becoming acquainted.
It was around this time, back around 1968, that we both came to know a Merton Haskell in Palermo, Maine, which opened the door to meeting others in the area (including a sister of his, as well as his mother, and other relatives) who shared a mutual interest in UFOs and even ghosts, and two who even had encountered locally the legendary Bigfoot, or at least what sure fit that description. Personal ghost stories were plentiful too. An inverted pan shaped UFO with large square windows had made more than one appearance. Merton's young nephew David Potter and several others had seen it they judged less than 100 feet over the ground, temporarily hovering while making a kind of rocking motion and also rotating. This just happened to be close to where Merton lived and occurred in July 1968.
A 19-year-old Brent Raynes reading John Keel’s book Our Haunted Planet at his then humble little office at his parents’ home in Hallowell, Maine. In 1969, I began corresponding with John Keel and I was rather surprised when in 1970 his Strange Creatures from Time and Space was published and lo and behold, the Maine cases in the book were from my Palmero contacts I had shared with him. Though I got no credit for them, I was glad to see my stories got further exposure. Before that they had appeared in my mimeographed newsletter the Scientific Sauceritis Review that had only maybe 30-40 recipients. Many were publication exchange partners, and I had exchanged mine with Keel's Anomaly newsletter. Merton was the man who had his finger on the pulse of strange phenomena in the Palermo area. One local mystery that always intrigued me was in a large field above the Lily Cove Farm on the hillside above the Sheepscot Pond. In the area of this large open field, always near the tree line, there were these circular areas on the ground, best described as rather like donut-shaped rings, where grass grew in the middle, that still remained after several years. I even went up and took photos and made a map and measurements of these formations (one large one that instead of being circular was elongated, approx. 30 X 69 feet). [Attached see the map I drew back then and one of the photos I took of a young nephew of mine standing near one]. You'll notice I listed SN for "saucer nest" and the width of the circular impressions.
Map I drew of locations of various circular areas and one large oval shaped ground impression in field.
My nephew Beecher standing near one of the ground impressions. In August 1968, during a visit with an APRO [Aerial Phenomena Research Organization] investigator in Keene, New Hampshire, named Walter Hicken, he shared with me how he had investigated similar ground disturbances in his state, in Westmoreland, Jeffrey, and Unity, and as with those in Palermo, they were all located near trees or tree lines. He and a colleague later came to visit us here in Maine to investigate our circles and spoke with a local reporter from the Daily Kennebec Journal of Augusta about his work and what he was doing in Maine.
Merton felt the then resident of the Lily Cove farm had been radiated by something. "All the hair on his body fell out," Merton told me. "He told no one about the circles until he was positive no more were likely to appear. He said the first circle he found was when haying and each year after there were more. The field was radioactive, the whole field, not just the circles. A man associated with state disaster planning checked it with a counter."
On one of my visits (August 5, 1968) to the Lily Cove Farm, I questioned the man, a Mr. Hannon, a senior citizen, as to whether he had he seen a UFO? He did describe how one night around 9 p.m., 2 or 3 years earlier, he had observed a peculiar light over the eastern horizon that moved back and forth a considerable distance, for about 20 - 30 minutes. I suspected that he could have told me more, but I sensed he was a private person, and I was then a 16-year-old UFO enthusiast who had showed up on his doorstep.
"His uncle told me once that at one time he went up in the edge of the woods of the back field and refused to return to the house," Merton also told me. "They creatively were forced to get his sister to convince him to go back to the house."
I collected soil samples from the field, but never could find anyone willing or interested in analyzing them. I checked recently on the internet to see if I could google anything on UFOs in Palermo. Nothing. But I know it was like a fairly active "window" location, as Keel called such places back in the day. I see the Lily Cove Farm still flourishes, but under new ownership, providing the community with fresh garden produce during the summer and early autumn.
What a journey it has been since these initial experiences in ufology. They helped awaken me to the kinds of potential high strangeness that await the curious investigator out there in the field. Through the years since I’ve come to meet researchers and experiencers from Maine to Washington state and up into Ontario, Canada.
Seldom a dull moment. I wonder what’s next? I love feeding my obsession.